On Saturday night I went to see Doctor Who Live at the Odyssey in Belfast.
I will admit that I was a little excited by the prospect. I’ve been a Doctor Who fan for a long time, way back to when I was young, and it was all very scary. The earliest episode I can remember is City of Death, an excellent Tom Baker story shown in 1979, when I would have been six according to my calculations. Since Doctor Who was never repeated back then, I read a lot of books instead, to find out about all the adventure I missed. I still buy the odd one.
When Doctor Who got so much publicity last Christmas, I rejoiced.
“YES!” I said to myself. “Vindication at last! Now the rest of the world finally understands that Dr Who is important”.
Or words to that effect. And it is important! Dr Who’s rebirth represents the triumph of something that is quintessentially British – the triumph of the little guy against overwhelming odds, by being clever and a little bit cheeky. In nearly all of the US sci-fi shows, there is a sizeable crew who work together to solve problems, and behind them the resources of the USA, or the Federation or whatever. Whereas Doctor Who only ever has a small cast – the Doctor and one or two assistants, working on their own, defending the downtrodden, fighting injustice, and almost always trying to avoid violence. I like that approach a lot.
So yes, I am “a bit of a fan”, and was quite excited to be going to the Odyssey, dressed in my extremely long Tom Bakerish scarf. So what was it like?
Well, it was based loosely around the Jon Pertwee story Carnival of Monsters, where an alien has captured a series of the Doctor’s adversaries, and is showing them off for the entertainment of the audience. Vorgenson, is played by Nigel Planer, a not insignificant actor in his own right. The evening is then an opportunity for the audience to “ooh” and “aah” at the appearance of their favourite monsters as they roam the arena, while a live band plays the music associated with each villain.
The monsters are well done, gradually building up to the Cybermen and Daleks at the end. And the music is good too, brilliantly conducted by a very energetic guy who I suspect was Ben Foster, who usually works on the Doctor Who music. They also had a choir along with them, including a soprano who song some of the hauntingly beautiful stuff that featured in the show two years ago. And they brought along Nick Briggs to play Winston Churchill, and provide live voices for the Daleks. So far so fanboy. So what did I really think?
Well I had a blast. If I had been 10, I probably wouldn’t have calmed down for a week. As it is, I’m 37, and I was pretty much calmed down a day later. But it take take a day. There’s a lot of sheer joy in just experiencing it, and to be honest I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.